Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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The mighty Mackinac Bridge

Pronounced Mackinaw, the Mackinac Bridge was finished in 1957, and it connets the lower and upper peninsulia of Michigan.

My first evening at the Straits State Park.

It’s just about 5 miles across, and once a year, on Labor Day, they close one side of it to traffic and let people walk across. I’ve done that once, and it was amazing.

The bridge lit up for the night.

This past week I booked 3 nights at the Straits State Park which is located just over the bridge, on the UP side of the water, hoping to practice some night photography. I booked three nights because you just never know about the weather. Would there be a clear night to shoot? Or would we have cloudy skies and rain?

I has lovely campsite, a grassy spot right on the beach with my own private path down to the water. That, of course, aforded me numerous opportunities to run out there and shoot an image. Or a dozen of them.

Lots of people around, but my site was large and grassy.

The first night I was there was clear, and after messing around in the evening getting some shots I set my alarm for 1 a.m. and went for the star and bridge combination. As I figured, the lights from the bridge washed out most of the stars, but I had a nice warm night playing around with settings, so I didn’t mind. And I figured I’d have a couple more nights to try again.

Trying to get some star in the shot.

The next day was another beautiful clear morning. I wandered down to the shore, noting the family of geese that had slept there and the freighter going under the bridge. All of that was fun, but I was planning on traveling up to Whitefish Point to see if I could get some more interesting night photography in. So I headed out.

That ended up being a story in itself. Though it was 85 and muggy on the Straits, it was 58 and pouring rain up at the point. So no night photography there! I headed back down to my campsite, and found this:

Fog overtake the bridge at sundown.

I was so glad I didn’t miss this, glad that it was cold and rainy where I had intended to spend my evening. The fog was so beautiful.

Things are turning pink.

And then the sun began to set. I could tell this was going to be spectacular.

Oh, this is going to be good!

And I wasn’t wrong.

People on the beach were as excited as if it were the 4th of July fireworks.

We all sat out there on the beach until the last bit of pink light faded and the fog rolled the rest of the way in. No night photography for sure, but I didn’t mind at all. And in the morning we woke to this:

No view to speak of.

So much fog I couldn’t even see the beach! So I headed out to find something interesting somewhere else. As soon as I left the park the fog lifted, it was hanging around over the water, but the rest of the penninsula was warm and sunny. But that is also another blog post.

There’s always something to photograph. Bug and buttercup.

When I got home I had one last chance to try for the pretty lights on the bridge. You’d think I had enough images of the Mighty Mac (and I did have several hundred) but you’d be wrong. I hadn’t quite got the one image I had in my mind.

Pretty, but not quite.

You know the one. The one people line up on beaches on both sides of the Straits to see every clear summer night.

This one.

When I got it a smile spread over my face. I’m sure the others on the beach didn’t know why I was giggling. But I did. When you get the one, you know.

And in the morning, to say goodbye, the bridge again cloaked itself in fog just so I could get one more artsy-fartsy image. Because she knows I’m always looking for that special shot.

Floating in air.

Such a fitting way to say goodbye. For now.


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Epic camping experience

Time is sliding by and I haven’t shared my wonderful camping experience from last week. And it would be a shame if you missed that because it was amazing and it definitely made me smile.

We were in sites C3 and C4.

You know that usually I camp alone with my Katie-girl, but this time Katie stayed home and I met a couple of friends at a campground on the Platt River, within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. The three of us had kayaked this river last fall, and checked the campground out back then.

The trail from the parking lot to our sites.

And one of my friends knew someone who told us about the walk-in sites which are even more beautiful because you’re not near anyone else. No one’s generator will be running all night. No listening to people partying around the campfire in the next site, because there’s so much space between them.

My campsite.

Plus, if you have to carry everything to your site you’re not apt to be partying late into the night! Trust me on this.

Our other site.

Our first afternoon one friend and I got tents set up on our two sites. We were at the end of the trail so no one else would be walking by. As it turns out, most of the time no one else was out there at all.

It was a short hike over the dunes to the lake.

Once we were set up we walked the .8 mile through some low sand dunes to the beach on Lake Michigan. It was a dark and pretty cold afternoon, but it was good to walk after our long drive to the campground. And you can’t beat the view once we got out to the shore!

A chilly afternoon for beach walking.

The next day we decided to take a hike on trails within the park, looking for three small lakes. We drove around on some narrow dirt roads and accidently ended up back at the beach, just further down from where we walked the day before. It was beautiful, but still kind of stormy with a threat of rain.

It was a dark and stormy morning.

Eventually we found the trailhead.

This looks inviting.

The woods were beautiful, filled with wildflowers. My friend had an app on her phone that told us what they were.

This was really tiny, but the bright color made us notice it all over the forest floor.

Of course I don’t remember any of it, except for this lady slipper.

This ladyslipper was right next to the trail, just begging to be noticed.

We found the first lake just as it began to sprinkle. But we didn’t let a little rain stop us.

Bass Lake, the smallest of the three lakes we walked around.

We continued on around the first lake; the trail led right through a deep, wet boggy place, with no option except to just get our feet soaking wet. We were compensated for that by seeing a beautiful, lush fern right there.

Worth the muddy feet.

We eventually found all three lakes as the rain continued. Of course I had left my raincoat in the car where it could stay nice and dry.

A little rain never hurt anything.

Ah well, we enjoyed seeing the woods and the flowers, and the lakes, and when we got back to our campsite our other camping friend was arriving!

Nature’s double yellow line.

We had a lovely dinner….

Yummy dinner coming up!

…and an even lovelier campfire where we heard coyotes loudly discussing something important….

Did you hear something?

….and went to bed. During the night foxes yipped and owls hooted and we knew we were truly in the woods!

The next day we kayaked down the river again. We were looking forward to a nice easy paddle, but the wind picked up, and we had to work really hard across one long lake, and every time the river turned to the west into the wind.

Paddle harder!

By the time we got to the mouth of the river we were definitely tired!

A pretty amazing day.

But not too tired to hike the Empire Bluff trail! The trail goes up and down through some beautiful woods.

Heading to the bluff.

And the first view you get of the shoreline is stunning.

A first peek through the trees.

But it was soooo windy by then it was hard to stand up on the bluffs and look at the view for long, so we drove down to another beach to watch a guy who was windsurfing.

Not easy to do!

And then we went to a diner and had a burger! It was my first restaurant experience since February of 2020. It was amazing.

Our last night at camp was windy with a big thunderstorm blowing over. Lightening and thunder and wind, the perfect ending to a perfect three days in norther Michigan!

Tucked in safe and dry.

We packed up in the morning, walking everything back down the long trail to the car.

Packing up always takes longer than setting up.

It took a bit of work, but it was definitely worth it to camp back in the woods away from everyone. We had so much fun, it was peaceful and beautiful and I’d do it again next week if I could.

One of many trips to the car.

Oh wait. Next week I’ll be camping in the Upper Peninsula. Not at a walk-in site, but it will be beautiful in a different sort of way.

Home sweet home.

Stay tuned.


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Memorial Weekend Musings

I recognize that not everyone has a National Cemetery close at hand to visit. And I know I just shared with you the one near me.

It’s a new day.

But that was before volunteers placed flags on the graves of our veterans. Flags that glow when the sun is just rising on the Sunday before Memorial Day.

Adding color to the memories.

And because you couldn’t all get there I decided to go for you, and for me, to see those glowing flags and reflect for a moment or two what it all means.

Our local version of Arlington.

What does it mean, on this Memorial Day weekend, that so many people are on opposite sides of so many issues leaving no middle ground to talk?

Row upon row of lifetimes.

Yet, both sides profess to love this country, a country that allows for differences of opinions. Just, apparently, not those opinions so different than our own.

Nature’s flyover.

When you walk among the white headstones in the early morning light, alone with no sound but the birds and a distant train, you have to wonder if we’re all so very different. If maybe, rather than different, we’re just stubborn.

Quiet company.

Still. I know it’s complicated, I have strong opinions too. Things that seem so obvious to me. But, it turns out, things seem obvious to the other side too.

Talking louder doesn’t make you right. Or wrong for that matter. Just louder.

Expressing an opinion.

In this quiet place, on this quiet morning louder seems obscene. Even the birds and animals that roam here at night are quietly moving to the outskirts as the sun comes up, willing to give the place back to the humans for their special day. We might learn from them how to share the world.

Live and let live. Both sides. Everyone.

Time to move on.

It’s easier to listen in the quiet, and it’s quiet out here. So many people, so many families represented. So many stories to be told if we care to listen.

Missed every day.

The folks out here cared enough to give a part, or the whole, of their lives to keep this country safe. And strong. We should care enough not to harm it now. We need to stop yelling, trying to make our point, and quiet ourselves the better to listen.

Sometimes it’s hard to let the light in.

So many people are missed this holiday weekend. So many families bear the burden and deserve our respect and understanding.

Dreams, achieved or not, make the world worth living.

Both sides must move toward the middle in order to preserve what these families gave to us.

Both sides.

Life is made of shadows and light together.

It’s a choice we each have to make within ourselves. Find a quiet place this weekend and think about what it all means to you.

The light will always shine.

And if your family is missing someone today…know that we’re all out here sending you hugs.


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Eagle search

In the past weeks we’ve seen stunning portraits of an eagle on Facebook, taken in the nearby Great Lakes National Cemetery. There’s a nest out there, says the photographer, so I thought I might head out early one morning and see if I could find the noble family too.

Pink light.

I got to the cemetery a little after six, just as the sun was beginning to think about emerging. There was no one out there but me and the stirring wildlife, moving quietly in the mist rising from the water into the cool morning air.

The sound of geese wings were the only noise on this beautiful early morning.

I drove to the very back of the cemetery which borders on a small lake. The photographer had said he parked at the back and walked across a field. I could see there was a newly plowed field adjacent to the very back of the cemetary.

How hard could it be to find an eagle’s nest?

Early spring in Michigan, the colors almost look like fall.

I tromped around that field with my feet getting increaingly wet and muddy. I saw plenty of spots I thought an eagle’s nest should be, but I never found the nest.

On my way past the lake again, headed toward the car, the rising sun was making the mist glow.

And the grave markers were beginning to glow too, hit from the east with the first direct rays of the day. Row by row names were being iluminated, making the sheer size of the loss overwhelmingly obvious.

Each one was someone’s family.

I decided that was enough to call the photo shoot a success.

Thank you for your service.

Even though I never saw an eagle.


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The next day

When I left you last, we had just spent the late afternoon exploring Trillium Hill and some of the backroads around Leelanau County. The next morning I lounged around in bed for a bit, enjoying the view from my window. It looked like it was going to be a beautiful day.

Pretty in pink.

After we spent some time tickling orange tummies, we headed back out to see what we would find.

No reason to rush out of the house.

Since we had seen Trillium Hill with the sun going down behind it, we wondered what it would look like with the morning light on it’s face. We were not disappointed.

Happy flowers with the morning sun warming them.

At first I thought I’d just take a general shot from the road. After all, I had all those images from the day before. And who, really, needs more than a few dozen pictures of white flowers?

The cowslips (or marsh marigolds) liked the morning light too.

Well. I just couldn’t resist, because the light was different in the morning, and everything looked fresh and happy.

It was hard to stop taking pictures.

We probably stayed way too long there, but after all, we’re both retired. What better way to spend a morning than among acres of flowers?

Another little pretty, hiding among all that white.

Eventually we left the magic hillside to see what else was out there. Turns out there was a lot. But first we stopped at a winery to pick up a few bottles and enjoy the view.

I loved the layers, from the dandelions to the grape vines to the two colors of orchards and the tall trees behind.

Then we wandered, on conservatory trails, through woods just waking up to spring.

How could you resist following this trail?

Spring was enjoying a resurgence, but sometimes you had to look carefully.

Such wonderful colors and texture.

We spent a lot of time in the woods. But we also drove on a lot of roads, looking for pretty stuff. It wasn’t hard to find things to stop for.

Roads meander through such beauty that I can’t believe people don’t drive off the road just looking at everything.

But mostly we kept our eyes open while we traipsed through the woods. We saw bleeding heart…

…and more Jack in the pulpit…

…and lots of regular stuff just bursting open in joy.

Spring has sprung.

It was my last full day in the north, in the morning I’d be heading home, sad to be leaving but so very glad I’d been able to see spring in my favorite part of the state.

Usually my visit here is all about the lake. Or the stars. But this time it was more about the land. And what glorious land it is! I saw lots of good stuff on my drive home too, but it’s hard to top cherry blossoms and trillium.

They sure made me smile.

Sweetness in the light.


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Trillum, cherry blossoms and a barn or two

There’s no better place to spend a weekend then in Michigan’s little finger, and I was lucky enough to spend last weekend there at the home of a friend. This trip had a specific purpose, to see Trillium Hill and cherry orchards in bloom.

What’s that over there? Could it be a barn??

But first I had a several hour drive up and across the middle of the lower peninsualia of Michigan. Right through farm country.

Three for the price of one.

Plus I was lucky enough to have some pretty interesting skies which kept taking me off the freeway and on to back roads looking for that perfect combination of barn and sky. I kept promising myself that I’d get back on the road and stop stopping. But it was hard.

This was my favorite barn on the trip north.

When I eventually made it to Traverse City, still half an hour from my destination, the storm front I’d had so much fun photographing had gone through, the temperatures had dropped into the mid 30s, (-1.11F), and the wind had picked up. On the 7th of May sleet was hitting my windshield.

Traverse Bay didn’t look very inviting.

Things didn’t look promising for a photoshoot of flowers or orchards! But by late afternoon the sun was beginning to peek through clouds and temperatures, though not balmy, at least weren’t freezing. Still, we put on our winter coats, hats and gloves as we headed out to Trillium Hill.

Waves and waves of trillum lit by a sinking sun.

The hill is covered in acres of white blossoms and the lowering sun softened the light, making them glow.

Trillums, the state flower in Michigan, as far as you could see.

It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. And though you’d think there were only so many pictures to take of trilliums, you’d be wrong. There were infinite ways to try to capture the moment, and I tried to get them all.

A closer look.

I didn’t want to miss the cowslips along a small creek at the base of the hill…

A bit of gold among all that white.

…or the jack in the pulpit that gleamed in the evening light.

I loved the light shining through the leaves.

And of course, the stars of the show, the hundreds and hundreds, the thousands of trillum as far as the eye could see. There was simply no way to encompass the entirity, it was almost hard for me to believe it was real, and I was standing in the middle of it all.

Sheer magic.

Eventually we tore ourselves away from the hill and went looking for cherry orchards in bloom. Luckily there were still some puffy white clouds just begging to be used as a backdrop.

Rows of beautiful trees covered hillsides, shining against a bright blue sky.

Not everything was in bloom yet, but the trees that were, were stunning.

It felt like spring had finally arrived.

It was a treat to drive the backroads looking for something special. And look what we found.

A barn AND cherry trees! Jackpot!

So the very first day of my weekend up north we managed to find both our objectives, trilliums and cherry trees. What was left to do the next day?

Even the roads are beautiful.

Guess you’ll have to wait and see.

We liked the shadows on this barn. The end of a good day.


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Orange smile

I know you saw my orioles already. But it’s early in the season and I’m sure you don’t mind seeing a better image of the youngster that’s hanging around. He’s not fully grown up yet, I figure he’s one of the babies from last season.

I’m young, but I’m still the most handsome dude around.

I’m glad he’s made it home, because he, and the rest of them, make me smile.

More exciting news, my hummingbird couple arrived at our feeder today. I’m sure I’ll have images to share soon. They’ll make you smile too, guaranteed.


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They have arrived!

I’ve been watching beautiful images on Facebook birding groups of Baltimore orioles arriving from locations all over Michigan. Even my own Facebook memories show orioles at my feeder the first of May last year, and here it is the third and I haven’t seen a glimpse of that brilliant orange in my backyard.

I began to worry that the new house built this past winter on the lot behind us had contaminated our yard in the orioles eyes. It’s certainly changed how I see our back yard.

And then this afternoon, as I walked into the living room I saw that flash of orange and I smiled. He was only there for a moment, my movement into the room scared him away.

You’re that crazy photo-taking lady, aren’t you!

But later in the afternoon as I was sitting in my big chair by the window my husband told me there was an oriole on the shephards hook. As I turned my head the big orange bird flew away.

Still…I had hope.

Tonight as I sat in a chair on the far side of the room, facing the window but too far away to be noticed by a skittish bird, I was thinking about going to the store to pick up some oranges. Though I had grape jelly in the feeder, something large had stolen the oranges last night that I’d put out yesterday.

And suddenly, even as I was encouraging myself to go get the car keys a burst of orange arrived on the feeder. I grabbed my conveniently placed camera, complete with long lens, and began to shoot. And while I was still looking through the viewfinder there were suddenly two.

Hey, what do you think is up there?

They were both very wary and I was glad I was a long way from them. They kept scanning the yard in between sipping grape jelly. They didn’t stay long, but this time I have proof.

It’s hard to enjoy dinner when you have to be on guard.

And then, just after they left, a youngster showed up. He surprised me so much that I didn’t get him in focus. But I’m excite to know that three different orioles visited tonight.

My dad told me this was a good joint for dinner.

I’m looking forward to seeing the females soon.


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Birthday walk

My husband got me a new camera lens for my birthday in April, but we’ve been so busy with our Katie-girl and truck safety stuff that I haven’t had a chance to take it out for a test walk.

Yesterday, even though the weather people said there woud be a 10% chance of rain in the morning, my neighbor and I headed to my favorite park where the herons are nesting in their rookery and little birds are always excited to see us.

One of my favorite places.

Early in the morning the sky was filled with puffy white clouds turning pink as the sun came up. I had high hopes. But shortly the rolling grey clouds moved in from the north, and it began to sprinkle. Still, she was game, and I really wanted to see whether there were baby herons, so we decided to go anyway. We both dressed for a 10% chance of rain.

Along the way, on the 40 minute drive, it began to pour. At worst case, we said, we’d drive by the heron rookery and check it out through the windshield. With the wipers on if need be.

With the new lens I can get this close to a heron’s nest!

But as we pulled into the nature center parking lot the sun began to peep out, making the landscape glow just a little.

Everybody was trying to dry out.

Still, it was windy. And when the sun dropped back behind the clouds it was cold. Cold and windy made the little birds very insistent on our attention and we lingered on the boardwalk that edges the water where the herons live for quite awhile feeding the red winged blackbirds and a drenched, bedraggled woodpecker.

No, I’m not a woodpecker, the lady with the long lens didn’t get a picture of him.

There was no action at the heron condo complex. I actually wondered if they had already hatched their little families and moved on. But there was one heron standing atop a nest, and it’s still early in the season, so mostly I was just confused.

One lone heron stands guard. Turns out that there were other herons there too, sitting low in their nests, out of the wind.

We decided to try walking around the lake, I was hoping to get into the woods and out of the wind. It was really cold. Almost immediately we came upon a Canadian goose couple, one of which stepped into the path and began to hiss at us. Uh oh. I told my neighbor not to get too close, you don’t want to mess with an angry goose. Then I noticed the babies behind them.

Out of focus angry parents, protecting little tennis balls of fluff .

We gave them lots of room as we moved past them, then we watched the babies, from a place far enough away that the parents weren’t threatened. That’s where having a long lens is really helpful.

Hey lady! My siblings are busy messing around in the mud, but I’ll pose for you. Stardom looks good on me!

We didn’t get much further when the wind really picked up and we realized that walking all the way around the lake was going to be pretty miserable. So we turned around and headed back toward the car.

A second family, swimming among the lilly pads, with about a dozen little ones.

The parking lot greeter cranes were delighted we were back so soon. Their business had been a bit slow that morning, what with the weather and all. They were more than happy to get their parking permit payment in the form of a yummy snack.

Hey! Don’t forget to pay your parking fee!

We left damp, chilled and happy. I had the chance to try out the new lens , she got to feed a few birds and one hungry crane couple. We vowed we’d be back soon to monitor those illusive herons.

But we’d pay better attention to the weather report next time.

Sure lady, you go get back in your warm car. We’ll wait here in the wind for someone else to come along and feed us.